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A wicked googly

§ Cricket for the masses

Those of you who follow Jason Kottke’s fine blog will have recently read a post concerning his incomprehension of an article on cricket. An excerpt from the article in question (in the Guardian):

The Yorkshireman Len Hutton was so eager to let loose Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson upon the Australians that he inserted them on a lifeless pitch and watched in dismay as Arthur Morris and Neil Harvey hit centuries and Australia rattled up 601 for eight. England lost by an innings but Hutton had the last laugh. Tyson ruled from then on and England won the Ashes.

Jason wrote that he was "pretty sure I know the meanings of all those words individually, but they make little sense strung together like that."

Allow me an attempt to explain. First of all we need to start with a basic introduction to the game of cricket and define a few terms (from CricInfo):

Cricket is a team sport for two teams of eleven players each. Although the game play and rules are very different, the basic concept of cricket is similar to that of baseball. Teams bat in successive innings and attempt to score runs, while the opposing team fields and attempts to bring an end to the batting team’s innings. All eleven players of the fielding team go out to field, two players of the batting team go out to bat. The remainder of the batting team wait off the field for their turn to bat. In baseball terms, a bowler is the pitcher and a batsman is the hitter.

On to the article:

The Yorkshireman Len Hutton was so eager to let loose Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson upon the Australians…

The article is tells the story of a 1950s cricket match between England and Australia. Yorkshire is a county in England, reknowned for its cricket players. Frank Tyson was a fast, powerful bowler (hence his nickname).

...that he inserted them on a lifeless pitch…

Before a match, whichever captain wins the toss of a coin decides whose teams should bat first (a critical decision, based on weather forecasts and ground conditions, which dramatically affect the final outcome). In this case Hutton won the toss and made Australia bat first.

A lifeless pitch is generally considered one where the ball doesn’t bounce or turn well. It should be noted that bowlers make it more difficult for the batsman by bouncing the ball off the ground in front of the batsman. By spinning the ball, bowlers get it to change direction on bounce. This change in direction is called turn, and is an equivalent ploy to a curve ball in baseball.

...and watched in dismay as Arthur Morris and Neil Harvey hit centuries…

Morris and Harvey were two Australian batsmen. A batsman is said to have hit a century when he has scored 100 runs.

...and Australia rattled up 601 for eight…

The Australian batsmen got a total of 601 runs (that’s an awful lot), with 8 batsman getting out.

...England lost by an innings…

During a match such as this (played over a maximum of five days), each team can bat twice, where each turn batting is called an innings. The runs scored in each innings are combined to make a total – whoever has the highest total wins the match (it’s not quite that simple, but we’ll leave it there). For England to lose the match by an innings meant that Australia only needed to bat once to get more runs than England’s two innings put together. Humiliating indeed.

...but Hutton had the last laugh. Tyson ruled from then on and England won the Ashes.

Every two years, England and Australia play a five match series for a trophy called the Ashes. A team wins the Ashes by winning the series, that is to say by winning more of the five matches. (Note that an international cricket match is actually called a test.)

The Ashes is actually being played for at the moment. At the time of writing, Australia are 1–0 up in the series, having crushed England in Brisbane.

I’d love to know if that was any help or merely served to muddy the waters further. For more cricket info see CricInfo’s Explanation of Cricket. By the way, a googly is a particular way of bowling, as used to devasting effect by Shane Warne a couple of days ago, in the afore-mentioned Australian win over England.